Author Topic: Brainiac, Gordian Knot.  (Read 7853 times)


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Brainiac, Gordian Knot.
« on: July 09, 2005, 10:58:54 PM »
Those of us in the U.K. who can get Sky 1, may have seen a programme on Wednesdays at 8PM ( and repeated all over the place) called Brainiac; History abuse.
One of the features is the legendary Gordian Knot, which they attempt to untie each week.
They have this big soccer ball sized knot tied in what looks like 2 inch (50mm) hemp. I have not seen it clearly, but it does not look like a monkeys fist or ball covering. Anybody else seen this? I'd love to know what knot it is.
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Re: Brainiac, Gordian Knot.
« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2005, 06:26:26 PM »
Hope I do not intrude.
I am French, & living in France, so no UK TV program for me.
But I will give the tip nevertheless : I have done, in the recent past,  a relatively extensive search about the" gordian knot" and "noeud gordien" . I was interested in its supposed nature. *only one site* cared to name it and it is supposedly a turk's head knot with the ends tucked in so as  to be hidden.
Hope that helps you.
If you know the British Admiralty way to do the monkey fist so that both ends are side by side I would appreciate it.


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Re: Brainiac, Gordian Knot.
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2005, 09:25:56 AM »
Or maybe there is another idea of what the legendary Gordian knot is:



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Re: Brainiac, Gordian Knot.
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2005, 04:20:49 PM »
Hello KnudeNoggin

Lenghty post this one ( rather warmed to the subject, will not do it again) ! you are friendly warned !

***Thanks for this very interesting Url with a very sharp idea.

If you are mathematicaly ( topology and knots theory) minded then go to a quite graphic table
(And also

***About Alexander and the Gordian Knot
Lucius Flavius Arrianus in Anabasis Alexandri, book II, c150 AD make a citation of  Aristobulus who hold that the knot was neither cut nor untied.

***I have my doubts about cutting a strong knot with one stroke of an iron sword dating 330 BC !
We have ( French Tv)  a popular  game « Fort Boyard ».
One of the challenges is cutting in a very short time a 2 inches ( about )  manilla rope simply laid on a wooden block with a « crusader sword » the very heavy sort.
I saw it the first time with some athletes ( the medalled sort) and had no doubt that the heavy set guy would succeed.
Well succeed he did.sort of.
He succeed in putting himself completely out of breath and unable to strike anymore in very few seconds. Rope was uncut ! ( they say that the trick in not in trying for a single powerfull blow put in  all the blows striking exactly at the same place, problem is that the very big sword seems quite a job to hold)

Alexander’s time swords were probably ( was not there, sorry ) as much "d’estoc" as "de taille". ( in French we say «de taille» if it is a cutting move  or «d’estoc» if it is a striking  (point move)

In battle it would be very hard to keep a sharpened blade and at this time it was iron and not steel.
Very hard to keep iron sharpened and harder still to have it honed.
At least sufficiently to cut with a single blow ( not than I would like to play the « rope » part in an historical replay !Let me be Alexander instead)

***A knot, sure is the weakness of a rope but cutting wise ( at the more so with a single blow)  it  certainly is its strongest point.  ( See how much discussion there is  about rigger’s knife : should it be serrated or knot ( pun shamelessly intended). Much conviction goes in that , and serrated is almost always winning ( pragmatical if not aesthetical choice).
I can tell you that when diving I will let you have ten of any of the best diving knife without a serrated edged ( if there is such a thing : a best non serrated !) for an average one with a serrated blade. (Anyway you cannot sharpened a diving knife). And that is speaking from an hairs raising experience and not from a book.
In naval warfare it was always a problem to cut «ropes» quickly enough, they would have dreamed of « cutting at one blow » heavy «ropes»

I much prefer Aristobulus’ explanation.

***As for splice I lived in my long gone youth in Normandy : you could see splices on the coast,  but 10 miles in-country you would not and ropes are quite a plentiful in this country where cows are always «au  tier», that is attached.
I am not sure that so far in land and  at this time (Alexander’s)  splices were known.

Knots are known since early history but splices ?

***I would like any one who know of a reference for splices dating from 3 centuries BC to post the information.

***Experimentation to do ?
Will some daring soul try it ( careful of the rebound !) :
Make a monkey fist or a turkshead with a finger size manilla , soaked it and let it dry.  
Put it on a wooden block.
Then try you best and heaviest axe at one stroke cutting the knot.
Keep me posted on the result.
( Keep in mind that a modern axe is much more a «cutting» tool .

Thank you if you read all this


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Re: Brainiac, Gordian Knot.
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2005, 08:18:24 PM »
Answering to myself and to a question that was not asked but that is the only mean I found to tell you about a book on ( partially) gordian knots.

Only one copy. ( just like the proverbial knife on the table in the dark room and the best come out!). Did not pounce on it, no sirs I did not.